Greta Thunberg has dismissed Nicola Sturgeon’s claims that Scotland is a world leader on tackling climate change in a damaging blow to the First Minister’s green credentials ahead of the Cop 26 summit.
The Swedish climate activist said some countries “do a bit more than certain others” but none in the northern hemisphere, including Scotland, were taking measures “close to what would be needed”.
The 18-year-old was also sceptical about the impact of Ms Sturgeon’s new power-sharing deal with the Scottish Greens, which the First Minister has claimed is an “historic agreement” to tackle the “climate emergency”.
Ms Thunberg said “a more systemic approach” was required to tackle climate change across the globe and argued that the oil and gas industry must be scaled down “if we are to have a chance of avoiding the worst consequences”.
Her intervention came ahead of a parliamentary statement by Ms Sturgeon on her deal with the Greens, as the Scottish Parliament returned from its summer break.
MSPs were also expected to vote to approve Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, the two Scottish Greens’ co-leaders, becoming junior ministers. However, the Tories said they would oppose the move as the pair has expressed opposition to pursuing economic growth.
Ms Sturgeon is expected to use the deal – the first time Green politicians have entered government anywhere in the UK – to burnish her climate change credentials ahead of world leaders descending on Glasgow in November for the Cop26 summit.
The First Minister has regularly boasted that the SNP has introduced the most ambitious legal framework for emissions reduction in the world, with a target to cut them by 75 per cent by 2030.
She has also pledged to make Scotland a net zero nation by 2045, five years ahead of the rest of the UK. However, her Government has failed to meet its annual greenhouse gas reduction targets for three years running.
Questioned by BBC Scotland on whether Scotland is a world leader on climate change, Ms Thunberg said: “No… I mean, there are some countries that do a bit more than certain others, but then if we look at it from a broader perspective then I think we can safely say there are no countries – at least in the global north – that are even doing close to what would be needed.”
‘We need to tackle this with a more systemic approach’
Asked about Ms Sturgeon’s deal with the Greens, the Swedish teenager: “Of course there might be some politicians that are slightly less worse than others. That was very mean, but you get the point.
“It’s a hopeful sign that people want something that’s more ‘green’ – whatever ‘green’ means – but in order to solve this, we need to tackle this at a more systemic approach.”
The Greens have praised Ms Sturgeon for a “significant change of direction” over her previous support for oil and gas after she urged the Prime Minister to think again about granting a licence for the huge new Cambo oil field near Shetland.
Asked for her views on Cambo, Ms Thunberg said: “I think that maybe summarises the whole situation we are in – the fact that these kind of countries who are actually hosting the Cop is planning to actually expand fossil fuel infrastructure, to open up new oil fields, and so on.
“But also it’s a bit strange that we are talking about single individual oil fields. It’s not just that we need to stop future expansions. We also need to scale down existing ones if we are to have a chance of avoiding the worst consequences.”
Pressed about concerns that this would decimate jobs in Aberdeen, she insisted this view was “not very realistic” and she hoped this would not happen. She added: “I don’t see that as a reason for not trying.”
The Swedish teenager said she has not yet decided whether she will travel to Cop26, but will do so if it is “considered safe and democratic”, including ensuring participants from poorer countries are fully vaccinated and able to travel.
Liam McArthur, the Scottish Liberal Democrat climate change spokesman, said: “The world’s most famous environmental activist has a point.
“This SNP government has consistently missed Scotland’s emissions targets and seems more concerned about agitating over another referendum than the climate crisis.”
The Scottish Government was approached for comment.